Gerard's watching Elliot and finds that they own the Moulin Rouge! dvd. Hooray!
Jade's tune on his guitar still was playing through my ears as I cheerily hopped down the stairs and lo and behold there was Mikey to greet me. He was eating out of a box of Frosted Flakes in his ragged Iron Maiden shirt.
"Yo Mikey," I greeted, trying to remain sounding as cheerful as possible though I felt weird realizing this had been the first time in awhile that I'd talked to him.
"Yo yourself," he greeted back with an undertone of annoyance. I was going to ignore that.
"So what's been up?" I asked, trying to put on some sort of show that it hadn't been almost five days since we'd crossed one another.
He preceeded to tell me about the "norm" with him and Alicia hanging out. Honestly their relationship was a little mushy for me and in the back of my mind I was wondering how many pet names and syrupy moments he was skipping. I was also wondering how far he'd gotten in his relationship. But once he was done with his story he shot me back with the same question. Huh.
I started off with the all-too-bland 'nothing' answer, but really I found myself reluctant to tell him anything else. Reluctant to tell my brother about Jade and Elle. I couldn't come up with a decent reason why, so I told him about the Blizzard fight and last night's jam session. When I finished a familiar, ambitious gleam came over Mikey's hazel eyes.
"Dude for cereal? That's sweet."
"Yeah you should totally come over and meet them today," I found myself saying but not feeling. What was with me? Why shouldn't he meet them?
Mikey's eyes fell down to his phone. His fingers danced against the keyboard. It was probably Alicia.
"Today I gotta go for this family lunch thing Alicia's family's having-"
"Ooh things getting serious?" I pried devilishly, though truly dying to know.
A hint of red flooded over Mikey's practically translucent skin as he hurriedly explained,
"Yeah well I really like her. Sorry about Sarah by the way."
Who? Oh yeah.
"It's all good, I don't care much."
My ex had been so far from my thoughts I really didn't care much. She probably hadn't given me another minute of her time either.
Then Mikey got this weird sympathetic look over his face before he went on,
"So anyways. Alicia's lunch thing's the only thing I got going on today. So maybe after that I could comver to meet them."
Inwardly I groaned. Outwardly I asked what time his 'lunch thing' ended.
"Like at 3:00 because afterwards they're going on vacation for a few days after this. I'll call you."
After that we made polite chat over cereal. Alicia and her parents eventually picked him up and I hopped in my Firebird, avoiding the empty home. I sat there behind the wheel.
Why should I care if Mikey meets them?
Then I remembered my place.
I was just Mikey's reclusive older brother.
But I helped myself through their screen door and Elliot's cool, gray eyes shined excitedly. And I got this weird feeling all of a sudden that it wouldn't have mattered if I walked in with a Vera Wang handbag, some UGGs and a pink polo. I could do no wrong in those eyes.
"Hola Elle. What's up?"
"Bored out of my mind."
"Hey well it's summer. Got any friends coming over?"
Elle's face flushed. Bad question.
"Well we did just move here..."
I got the feeling that wasn't the only reason, but I didn't want to know anymore so I cut her off with an awkward,
"Sorry...Where's Jade?" I changed the subject.
Elle's frown didn't change.
"He's been really weird today. He won't let me in the kitchen. He's got all the doors locked. He's been really quiet in there for awhile..." Elliot started to sound worried. Instantly I turned over to the kitchen, beginning to knock on the chipping white door.
I helped myself into an unlocked door. Jade was face down in a pile of newspapers, beside him a gigantic bowl of cereal using probably a gallon of milk and box of Cocoa Puffs. Damn.
"It seemed like a good idea at the time," he argued.
His head turned my way at my entrance. I told Elliot to leave for a moment or so because to be quite honest I didn't know what the hell was wrong with him. There was dark pink beneath his eyes and his usual particular hair was scraggly. I'd just seen him last night completely different.
"I'm S.O.L. that's what." he said grimly.
"The hell you talkin about? Why've you been keeping Elle out of the kitchen? She needs some a them Cocoa Puffs," I giggled, trying to lighten the mood because he was freaking the hell out of me.
His eyes suspiciously went to the hallway where Elle was absent, then back to me.
"I'm out of gas, Gee. I'm out of money. I've got no job. No income. I can't keep her if I'm livin' like this, man. I can't pay the bills," he whispered.
Guilt socked me in the gut and spit in my eye for good measure. The only reason that was, was because of me.
He knew that too, I'm sure, but something came over his eyes. They were so much like Elle's.
"I've applied everywhere. Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Subway-even Dairy Queen again for good measure!"
I couldn't help but snort.
"How'd that go,"
A weary smile came over him finally too.
The phone screamed and jolted something in both of us, Jade's smile was quickly swept away as he snatched up the phone and answered. His face lit up.
"Alright I'll be there in a few." He hung up the phone hurriedly and shot up from his defeated seat.
"That was Taco Bell. Exciting. I have a thing for Chihuahuas. Anyways...could I borrow your car to get there for my interview?"
I agreed really without thinking. He needed this job to keep Elle-how could I say no?
"Thanks so much, man. Would you look after Elle while I'm gone? She's only twelve and-"
Once again I agreed without thinking. He needed this job to take care of them both-this seemed like the right decision.
"Thank you. Elle!" he called out. They talked in private and he kissed her goodbye.
Then Jade did something that would stick with me probably the rest of my life. He turned around and looked me dead in the eye. I stared back.
These were the eyes of a boy who's childhood had been stripped away.
"Take care of her."
And with my keys in his hand he was out the door. But I still had shivers down my spine.